Clean sheets have the power to turn a bad day good in an instant. While this may sound like a stretch, I truly believe that fresh-out-of-the-dryer bedding is a panacea for all emotional stress. When things get hectic in my life, I turn to running and laundering my linens. When things get hectic in my friends’ lives, I advise them to do the same. (95% of them ignore the running part and reach straight for the laundry detergent...or a cocktail.) So as an avid “clean sheets” proselytizer, I was saddened to learn (after some accidental research) that the crisp cotton bedding I had been using to soothe my own soul was not so clean after all. In fact, not only was it not clean, chances are it was toxic. Let me explain: non-organic cotton is grown with pesticides and insecticides. Some of it is even genetically modified with chemicals to repel pests. I’m committed to buying only organic produce, but my sheets? I didn’t even think to consider to it. As upsetting as this news was, I was encouraged to learn that there are companies cropping up with a mission to provide ethically made and organically grown cotton linens. One of my new favorites is Boll & Branch—a U.S.-based ecommerce company set on offering the highest quality bedding free of harsh chemicals. After throwing my dirty sheets in the trash (and going for a run), I reached out to Logan Crane, VP of Operations for Boll & Branch. Here’s what he had to say.
What are some of the toxic chemicals commonly found in linens and bedding today that most people are unaware of? “Since cotton is highly susceptible to bugs and pests, conventionally grown cotton uses more insecticides than any other crop in the world. It’s been estimated that regular cotton uses 25% of the world’s insecticides and over 10% of the world’s pesticides. The pesticides used in growing conventional cotton are incredibly harmful to the farmers who interact with them and their communities. According to the World Health Organization, pesticide poisoning causes up to 20,000 deaths a year in developing countries. Chemicals and pesticides used in conventional cotton can also seep into runoff water, poisoning lakes and rivers. And when the water becomes contaminated, this creates a ripple effect, poisoning fish, birds, and other animals who drink the water. Further, conventional cotton farms use a process called monoculture, which means that cotton is the only crop planted in a large area year after year. However, this growing method can remove nutrients from the soil and make it more susceptible to weeds and pests.”
Cotton is reportedly one of the dirtiest crops. What does Boll and Branch do to ensure its linens are safe and free of toxins? “Choosing organic cotton is not only better for you, it is healthier for the cotton farm and factory workers. Our organic cotton grows in healthier soil thanks to crop rotation, and uses seeds that are produced without dangerous fertilizers, insecticides, or pesticides. Crop rotation means that farmers plant rows of cotton interspersed with other crops like vegetables and beans. Then the next year, farmers plant the cotton where the other crops grew last year, and vice versa. This helps to maintain nutrients in the soil and keep the pests away. To combat pests like bollworms and caterpillars, Boll & Branch farmers plant marigolds that attract pest-eating birds. We use eco-friendly, Global Organic Textile Standard (GOTS)-certified dyes—never chlorine. Many sheets, especially ones labeled “wrinkle-free,” are treated with harsh chemicals like formaldehyde that can cause itchy, watery eyes and skin irritation. Boll & Branch cotton is grown in rainfed regions of India, where farmers are dependent on the monsoon season for their irrigation. Our farming partners are trained in how best to use their scarce water resources during the dry season. They are also trained to trap and store rainwater for irrigation and drinking.”
When people want to buy safe, clean bedding, what are the top 3 things they should look for?
1. Traceable - There are lots of organic products on the market, but there are few that have the gold standard. Check organic products for the GOTS label, this confirms that the product and finishes that went into the product were traced and verified to maintain integrity.
2. Composition - Check what % of the product is organic. It can potentially be blended with up to 30% of other materials.
3. Impact - Check the product for what positive impact it created. Labels such as Fair Trade Cotton or Fair Trade Factory will indicate that the livelihood of those involved were protected when making that product.
4. Safe - Check the label for OEKO-TEX or GOTS to confirm the processing and materials used to manufacture the product are in fact safe to the touch.
On a scale of 1-10, how important is to buy organic bedding? We’re biased, but we would say 10! Here are a few reasons why:
1. It’s chemical-free. Organic cotton is produced without synthetic fertilizers, insecticides and pesticides. Conventional cotton, on the other hand, uses more insecticides than any other crop.
2. It requires less water. Cotton is one of the world’s thirstiest plants. But organic cotton farmers don’t need to irrigate as intensely, because they’re working with healthier soil from the start. The result is a more efficient process that uses significantly less water.
3. It’s healthier for farmers. People who work at conventional cotton farms interact every day with all of the toxic chemicals used in the growing process. Pesticide poisoning is linked to thousands of deaths each year.
4. It’s healthier for animals. Pesticide runoff from conventional cotton farms doesn’t just affect people—it also kills millions of fish, birds and other animals annually. Organic cotton processes eliminate this danger.
5. It’s healthier for you. Before they arrive in stores, conventional cotton products are treated with chemical dyes and bleach. Organic cotton products, on the other hand, are made without harmful chemicals. The result is a healthier choice for you and your family.